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Award-winning football project for people with mental health conditions comes to Barkingside

Service users at one of the Waltham Forest sessions. [Picture: London Playing Fields Foundation] Service users at one of the Waltham Forest sessions. [Picture: London Playing Fields Foundation]

Sunday, July 27, 2014
12:00 PM

An award-winning scheme which uses football to engage people with mental health conditions has expanded into the borough.

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Service users at one of the Waltham Forest sessions. [Picture: London Playing Fields Foundation]Service users at one of the Waltham Forest sessions. [Picture: London Playing Fields Foundation]

Coping Through Football has run for seven years in Waltham Forest and, after experiencing success in improving people’s wellbeing, it has now come to Barkingside.

Of the users who have taken part in the North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) and London Playing Fields Foundation project during its first three years, 44 per cent have gone on to further education, training, volunteering or employment.

Barbara Armstrong, 52, NELFT’s joint lead occupational therapist, said: “It is for mental health users, particularly those who find it hard to engage with services.

“We thought football was a good way of getting them involved in activity.

“We always had people from Redbridge come to the Waltham Forest sessions, so now we are running them here it is more accessible for them.

“We have had a really good response so far.”

The expansion of Coping Through Football, which won the Silver Prize at the UEFA Grassroots Awards this year, was made possible thanks to funding from the Wembley National Stadium Trust and the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation.

The sessions run at the Fairlop Oak Playing Field, in Forest Road, on Mondays and Wednesdays and the members are all referred from NELFT, which runs the Goodmayes Hospital site.

There are also additional sessions for children aged 12 and above.

Alex Welsh, the chief executive of the London Playing Fields Foundation, said: “What we want to do with our young people is to prevent them from falling into chronic conditions which will plague them for the rest of their adult lives.”

Participants are coached by staff from the Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme and an NELFT clinician and occupational therapist are always present.

Although football is the main focus, topics such as drugs and alcohol awareness are also discussed.

Mr Welsh added: “We have seen some magnificent results in improving people’s health and their confidence.”

For more information, visit copingthroughfootball.org.

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